Carolina Panthers 2013 Schedule Analysis

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<p> Carolina Panthers 2013 Schedule Analysis</p>

The Carolina Panthers finished strong last season, winning their last four games. Can Cam Newton lead his team to the playoffs in his third season? Here's our look at the Panthers' 2013 NFL schedule.

Carolina Panthers 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: Seattle
Week 2: at Buffalo
Week 3: New York Giants
Week 4: BYE
Week 5: at Arizona
Week 6: at Minnesota
Week 7: St. Louis
Week 8: at Tampa Bay (Thurs.)
Week 9: Atlanta
Week 10: at San Francisco
Week 11: New England (Mon.)
Week 12: at Miami
Week 13: Tampa Bay
Week 14: at New Orleans
Week 15: New York Jets
Week 16: New Orleans
Week 17: at Atlanta

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Out of the Gate: Carolina fans should be happy with their team's opening month slate since it means Seattle and the New York Giants will both be coming to Charlotte. But then again, the fans aren't the ones who have to play these two NFC powerhouses. Sandwiched between these two home contests is a trip up north to face Buffalo. The Panthers' bye comes in Week 4, meaning they will have to play 13 straight weeks starting Oct. 6.

Toughest Stretch: Crossover play with the AFC East and NFC West is one thing, but when the schedule lines up three straight division champions from last season in a row? That's what the Panthers are facing in November with Atlanta (home), San Francisco (away) and New England on tap in Weeks 9-11. To add to the degree of difficulty, the Falcons game is preceded by a Thursday night road game at Tampa Bay in Week 8, and then there's the matter of the cross-country trip to play the 49ers on their turf. At least the matchup with the Patriots gives Cam Newton and company an opportunity to play in the "Monday Night Football" spotlight.

Swing Games: NYG (Week 3), at MIN (Week 6)
Crossover Divisions: AFC East, NFC West
Bye Week: Week 4
Opp. 2012 W/L %: .543 (1st)
Athlon's SOS Rank: 13th

Easiest Stretch: Carolina's home schedule is pretty brutal (Seattle, New York Giants, St. Louis, Atlanta, New England, Tampa Bay, New York Jets and New Orleans), so it's kind of unfair that the Panthers' "easiest" games are on the road. Buffalo, Arizona, Minnesota and Miami are the non-divisional destinations and could present opportunities to come up with big road wins. The matchups with the Cardinals and Vikings come back-to-back following the Panthers' bye in Week 4, so I guess that will have to suffice for this exercise. The bottom line is this - there are very few breathers on this schedule for head coach Ron Rivera and his team.

Circle The Calendar: No lack of options here. The opener with Seattle will be intriguing because of the matchup between the Seahawks' defense and Newton. There's also the Week 10 trip to San Francisco, which will feature the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick and Newton, who are similar in their playing style, athleticism and dual-threat ability, on the same field. (Although the 49ers' defense figures to be a much tougher test for Newton compared to the Panthers' D for Kaepernick.) And if that's not enough, the following week will highlight quarterbacks with totally contrasting playing styles, as Tom Brady and the Patriots pay a visit to Charlotte for "Monday Night Football."

Divisional Notes: The Panthers don't play an NFC South opponent until a Thursday night date in Tampa Bay in Week 8. That means six of Carolina's final 10 games are divisional contests, highlighted by two against New Orleans in a three-week span (Weeks 14 and 16). That first game against the Buccaneers is followed by a home date with Atlanta, while the second meeting precedes a road game in New Orleans. In addition to playing the Saints twice in a three-week span, the Panthers have the daunting task of finishing their regular season in the Georgia Dome against the Falcons.

Playoff Push: A playoff berth in Newton's and Rivera's third season would be a huge statement for this team. However, Carolina's tough schedule may make this goal too hard to accomplish, even if the Panthers put together another strong final month like they did last season when they won their final four games. The last month of this season has the Panthers playing four divisional games, including two against New Orleans, along with a rare visit from the New York Jets. With four of its six divisional contests set for December, it's entirely possible that Carolina could have a fighting chance at a playoff spot, provided this team is able to survive the first three months of the season.

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): In an interesting schedule quirk, the Panthers get the Saints twice in a three-week span, sandwiched by a visit from the Jets. If Cam Newton continues to make strides as a passer, he will get two shots at the defense that surrendered the most fantasy points to QBs and WRs last season. A different plan of attack may be employed against the Jets, who finished 26th against the run.


2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
Buffalo Baltimore Houston (6/19) Denver (6/18)
Miami (6/25) Cincinnati Indianapolis (6/20) Kansas City (6/24)
New England (6/26) Cleveland (6/17) Jacksonville (6/21) Oakland (6/28)
NY Jets (6/27) Pittsburgh (7/1) Tennessee (7/3) San Diego (7/2)
       
NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
Dallas (6/18) Chicago (6/17) Atlanta Arizona
NY Giants (6/25) Detroit (6/19) Carolina St. Louis (6/27)
Philadelphia (6/26) Green Bay (6/20) New Orleans (6/24) San Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3) Minnesota (6/21) Tampa Bay (7/2) Seattle (7/1)

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